Friday, 13 January 2017

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 13 January 2017

Welcome back to the start of a new Lent term and although the weather was due to turn this week, its ‘another day of Sun’ here at Sexey’s (the ‘Sun’ reference will become apparent in the days to come!), albeit there is quite a nip in the air. I trust that you all had a restful holiday (seems like such a long time ago) and are now settled into the rhythms and routines of the New Year. Over the festive period, the School was delighted to learn that Sixth Former Katherine Leeming was appointed to the UK Youth Parliament representing South Somerset after a hard fought campaign – a tremendous achievement and we wish her well as she speaks for the youth of today on issues such as education, the health service, Brexit and the current political turmoil we are experiencing. The Sexey’s Ski Trip to Kitzbuhel last term went well too and the skiers had a great time with many improving their skiing (and language) skills – preparations are already underway for next December’s trip. Do watch out for further details as I am sure places will be snapped up very quickly indeed.

The Lent term is packed (I wouldn’t have it any other way!) with plenty of activities in and around school – from sport, drama, music, art, charity fund raising and PSA events. Well done to the 6th form who sat their Trial Exams this week (A-level Art and Photography exams continue next week) in preparation for public exams in the summer; university offers are also coming in thick and fast too. The drama department is busy rehearsing for Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’ which takes place next month – do please come along and support the students’ efforts. And the Spring Concert will also be taking place this term – if you missed the Christmas Concert last term, you had better get your ticket for this one as I expect it will be standing room only…again! For a list of this season’s sporting fixtures (Football, Netball and Rugby 7s) please do check the website which is easily accessed through the school’s website. Fixtures start in earnest next week against the likes of Sherborne, Beechen Cliff, BSfG and Warminster with the U18 Badminton Team play in the County Finals on Monday - if you can come down for the Home matches it would be wonderful to see you cheering on from the side lines.

The new term is already in full swing and it proves to be a very exciting and busy one – I look forward to seeing many of you at the numerous events that will be happening at School over the coming weeks and months (the much anticipated PSA Quiz is next Friday – more details below). Yesterday, a Year 7 pupil came and sat with a colleague and I at lunch and spoke about their holiday and their future aspirations. I was so impressed with how polite and articulate they were – brimming with excitement about school and the opportunities it offers; it was heartening to see how our students are developing, both in character and confidence and I hope that what we do, day in and day out, makes a difference. Thank you in advance for your continued support and loyalty and I wish you a very successful and prosperous 2017 – let’s hope for more days of Sun!

Friday, 9 December 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 9 December 2016

So the Christmas spirit has finally arrived at Sexey’s this week and it certainly feels likes Christmas now, with the Christmas trees looking splendid, tinsel in the classrooms, carols playing in school and the 6th form taking part in Christmas Jumper Day in support of the school’s various charities. After all it is December and all we need now is some snow…

Yesterday's traditional Christmas Concert was a wonderful occasion and it was a real pleasure to see so many parents and friends of the School in attendance - it was standing room only and the concert highlighted the wealth of talent abundant in the school. This year we were treated to fine performances by the Wind Band, the Strings Group, the Folk Band, Choir and spirited solo performances too – Leanne Baker (I Dreamed a Dream), Princess Ijaola (My Boy Lollipop), Adam Wagstaff (Infant Holy), Toria Ives (Away in a Manger) and Alexandra Macmillan and Jessica Taylor (Silent Night). There were plenty of other stunning performances (far too many to list here) and it was incredible to see the level of engagement, participation and most importantly, the sheer enjoyment of the students which was in so much abundance last night. From Year 7 to the U6, the breadth and depth of musical talent here is strong and the quality of music in a school reflects its ethos, spirit and creativity and I know that under the stewardship of the brilliant Mr Badley (who played more than 5 instruments last night!), music will continue to go from strength to strength at the school. The festive season is well and truly here!

We have just had an absolutely sumptuous Christmas Lunch by Mr Ben Futcher and his team in the KDR which was preceded by another Sexey's Christmas tradition - the Annual House Cross-Country (my thanks to Greg and Elaine Beedle at Gants Mill for their continued support of this brilliant event). The school was awash with students (and a number of colleagues) in their colourful kit and fancy dress running for their Houses and their chosen charities, UNICEF and SANE – from Santa’s Sleigh complete with reindeer to the Sexey’s Swim Team running in just their swim kit, to the ‘Mr Southwood Appreciation Society’ and the Sexey’s Christmas Presents. We also had the Head of School, Victoria Regan and the Head of Boarding Fran Llewellin together with Jess Perry and Rachel Palmer dressed as Santa’s Little Helpers. The PSA were also in fine form tackling the tough course in aid of SANE. Thankfully the weather was kind to us today (though it was perishing and quite soft underfoot after last night’s downpour) but the atmosphere was very warm (as was the hot chocolate) and at times, electric. The camaraderie and support shown by the students for each other, and for colleagues was truly humbling - the students singing the School Song set the tone for the character building morning. Again, it never ceases to amaze me the sheer talent that is in such abundance here and the fervent pride the students have for their Houses (house hockey and rugby matches will be fiercely contested next week and after the holidays), let alone their School. And speaking of talent, we had Ellice Pounder (L6) who participated in the Supadance National Ballroom and Latin Finals in Blackpool last weekend.  In the couples event she managed to get to the quarter finals and came third as part of the ladies team - a tremendous effort by our very own ‘Strictly’ star! I would also like to wish our Oxbridge candidates the very best next week as they travel up to the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge having been invited up for interview. They have been preparing feverishly this week and have had tough mock interviews with colleagues who have been putting them through their paces. I am sure this passion for learning both inside and outside of the classroom will continue long into the weekend, when the boarders will be off to Southampton for Christmas shopping and also making preparations for next week’s Feast Night, whilst the Y11 Geographers will be getting ready for their expedition to Snowdonia. We are very privileged to be part of this spirited and warm community. 

Monday, 5 December 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 2 December 2016

I trust you all enjoyed the extended exeat last weekend. Our equestrian team were competing on the Sunday at the Team and Individual Show Jumping event organised by the South & West Wilts Pony Club and Gretel White (won her class – well done!), Jess Brewer, Iris Anderson, Daniel Meir and Niamh O’Keeffe performed admirably and we are very proud of the team and of their efforts. This Sunday afternoon Niamh O’Keeffe and Georgia Silcox are competing at the Seavington Show Jumping Competition at King’s Sedgemoor – we wish them both all the best. And thank you to all parents who attended the Q&A last Friday on the recent Ofsted Boarding inspection – I hope you were reassured by our plans to move forward and also had a chance to read our new Boarding Newsletter, keeping you up to date with what’s going on in and around our boarding houses.

Earlier this week I opened my mail in my study and I was surprised to find a Christmas Card in November! Firstly, I was surprised at the efficiency of the sender and secondly, it alerted me to the fact that we are just four Fridays away from Christmas. Is it me, or does Christmas seem to be arriving earlier every year?  The John Lewis ad (apparently this signals the start of Christmas), the annual battle of the supermarkets, Black Friday, the Sunday supplements teaching you ‘How to cook the perfect Turkey’ and Christmas trees popping up around the School and in the Boarding Houses. So we are officially in the festive season and this week we have seen a veritable feast of opportunities, which have included County Cross Country Trials at King's School, Bruton, sporting fixtures against All Hallows' and The Blue School, Hockey Area Finals, indoor athletics, the Y7s, 8s, and 9s were treated to a performance of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ by The Quantum Theatre Company from London, PSHE talks to Yrs 10 and 11, Oxbridge interview preparation, code breaking, cake sales in aid of charity and ‘The Great British Brain Bake Off’ (a Psychology Department Production!) which involved a lot of baking, eating and thinking. Food for thought. And alongside all of this, our very own Christmas preparations are underway; I noticed the Christmas decorations coming out of the school attic, the boarders putting up Christmas trees in their boarding houses; preparations are underway for the Christmas Concert next Wednesday – do come along and join in the yuletide festivities; the annual Cross Country event next Friday, Christmas Lunch in the KDR, 6th Form Christmas Jumper Charity Day, the Christmas Shopping Evening on Bruton High Street, Feast Night in the Boarding Houses and of course, the Christmas Carol Service on the last day of term at St Mary’s, Bruton. This will round off the term and put everyone in the Christmas spirit, though some may already be spreading the Christmas cheer at School…

Monday, 14 November 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 11 November 2016

Welcome back after a splendid half term break where I hope you had the opportunity to relax, recuperate and spend quality time with family and friends; we are now back into the rhythms and routine of school life and concentrating on the core business of teaching and learning at Sexey’s.  However, we have been somewhat distracted by the extraordinary events that took place in the US this week – is the American dream alive or has it turned into a complete nightmare?  I am still in shock with the outcome of the most bitter and divisive presidential campaign in living memory and only time will tell if Americans have made the right choice.  I only hope that Donald Trump can 'bind the wounds of division' created by this campaign, bring people together and be a decent president that will represent all Americans. 
With Oxbridge exams and Maths Challenges having already taken place and Y11 Michaelmas Exams next week with Sixth Form assessments following closely behind, the school is a hive of academic learning, as it should be, and I have been impressed with the conscientious approach taken by our Sexeians – I wish all our students the very best in their academic endeavours.  And speaking of endeavours, some of our Y11 and 6th Form students accompanied the School Chaplain Mr Richard Kelley this week on a Young Vocations breakfast visit to meet with none other than the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby, at the Bishop’s Palace in Wells.  The breakfast was designed for young people exploring God's calling on their lives, and the Archbishop was excited to hear that the students which included Vicky Sanders, Chloe Thomas, Sophie Couper and Caroline de la Harpe, will be starting a Christian Union at Sexey's.  Another great opportunity for our students.

Whilst we enjoyed our half term, we had a number of Sexeians representing the school at various events and activities over the holiday.  Iris Anderson (Y8) won her class in the NSEA show jumping competition at the Addington Manor County Finals and will now represent Sexey’s and Somerset in the National Finals next year – a tremendous effort!  Our Y10 army cadets, Will and Tim Forster represented the school at the Combat Stress event in Castle Cary which is a Veteran’s mental health charity which supports veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.  My thanks to them and their parents for their continued support.

The three Bruton schools, the Brownies, the Scouts, members of the armed forces and the community will parade through the town On Sunday to pay their respects at the Remembrance Day service at St Mary’s.  It will be a time to remember and commemorate those Brutonians, including those from Sexey’s and King’s, who gave their lives during the Great Wars.  In total 63 Sexeians lost their lives fighting for our country and the School’s Armistice Day service this morning remembered them, with Warrant Officer David Hill present at the service to read the Kohima Prayer.  Our bugler, Faelan Sydenham (L6) did the school proud as he played the Last Post and Reveille respectively (not an easy thing to do) as did the Heads of School and Senior prefects who read out the names of the fallen.  It was a poignant and emotional service and I hope our Sexeians will gain and learn much from this and Sunday’s experience - they are the next generation who I hope will work tirelessly to avoid such conflicts from happening again in the future and will endeavour to continue to bring peace in our world.  We have much to thank the courageous and selfless acts of these young men (some as young as our Y11s) who gave their lives in fighting the Great Wars and other conflicts so that we could enjoy our freedoms today and tomorrow - we will remember them, always.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 21 October 2016

We stopped and paused for reflection at our annual Speech Day this afternoon where we welcomed our Guest of Honour, Mr Kevin Roberts. Here we celebrated the success of Sexeians past and present and I was thoroughly impressed with the slick organisation, the conduct and maturity of our students, the calm composure of the Wind Band, the assured delivery by the Heads of School (Max and Victoria) and the quality of our guest speaker, Kevin. A truly memorable occasion which highlights all that is outstanding about this fine institution and thank you to all colleagues who made this possible today – a great team effort and the Hobhouse (30 years old this week) looked stunning, including the flowers. There has also been plenty going on at Sexey’s - from numerous House competitions, sporting fixtures, drama rehearsals, music practices, art workshops, PSHE, Open Evenings, the Philosophy and Theology Conference, Boarders’ Church Services, Bath Rugby, TEDxSexey’s, Duke of Edinburgh award and of course the important matter of teaching and learning. It was great to hear the excitement from the Head of Sixth Form, when one of our U6 students had already received an interview from a university – their application was only sent off last week! This bodes well for the future and I wish the U6 well. And of course, the Y11s have their Michaelmas Trial Exams after the half term break (w/c Mon 14 November) and it would be wise for them to use this time productively to prepare for these important examinations, but at the same time to have some rest and to recuperate – it’s vital that there is a balance here.

So as we hurtle towards the end of this busy term I would like to thank all staff and Governors for their efforts in ensuring that our students receive the highest quality teaching and pastoral care – it’s not easy at times but I am grateful for all their hard work, patience and commitment. And also to you too, for all the support you give to our school – by working together in partnership we can all bring out the best in our students.

Have a pleasant and peaceful break.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 7 October 2016

‘Now Is The Winter Of Our Discontent’ (as the weather takes a turn for the worse) and ‘All the World’s a Stage’ by William Shakespeare are quite apt writings and poems in light of the school’s celebration of National Poetry Day this week. Yesterday saw dozens of students scribbling away and creating their own poems under the guiding light of the English Department and I look forward to hearing them read their masterpieces. Providing such opportunities within the school day for our students to allow their creative juices to flow is important, and lets them express themselves in a different context. I want to continue to encourage creativity here at the school and hope that our students will take up the many opportunities on offer. Rehearsals for this year’s drama production, Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’ are well under way – the work and the world of the bard continues to inspire generations.

On Tuesday we had our 6th Form Open Evening for prospective students and their parents and with over 130 families in attendance, there was standing room only in the Main Hall. Again, our 6th form students were a real credit to their parents and to the school and our speakers articulated their thoughts on their experiences with great passion - not an easy task addressing over 300 people in the Hall, but they did it. We have an outstanding 6th Form (the results at A-level speak for themselves) and a dedicated team who go above and beyond the call of duty. If any of our Y11 parents didn’t get a chance to come in on the evening or would like to visit again, then please do get in touch with Mrs Stallion who will be only too happy to organise a personal visit for you. Speaking of the 6th form, a reminder that our Lower 6th (Year 12) ‘Meet the Tutor’ event takes place on Monday, 17th October at 4pm in the Sixth Form Centre. And of course, my ruminations would not be complete without mentioning the weather and it really has turned cold. I do feel for our intrepid explorers who are out on Exmoor this week looking to gain their DoE Silver award; I am confident our students’ attitude and conduct will be exemplary even when faced with such a challenge. Hockey and rugby matches continued to dominate the Elm and Daisy Fields this week with weekend rugby fixtures against Milton Abbey and weekday matches against Dauntsey’s and Bruton School for Girls. It was wonderful to hear the excitement of an U6 girl who bounded towards my study this morning to tell me all about how the Senior Hockey Ladies’ team managed to win 1-0 against BSfG away - a tremendous feat and a memory which will last with that young woman for a long time to come. I hope she can draw on her experience on that astroturf and use it as inspiration in her everyday life. The Equestrian Team are also competing at Leweston this Sunday.

I look forward to seeing you at the many school events organised over the coming months at Sexey’s (yes, it’s already October!) and, of course, it’s Speech Day in a couple of weeks’ time which also signals the end of this half term. It’s been a very busy half term and with play rehearsals, concerts, services, trial exams, more sporting fixtures to come, things will only get hotter…

Monday, 3 October 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 30 September 2016

From The Head Master

Bonjour! Guten Tag! Buenos Dias! This week saw European Languages Week with the MFL department putting on a variety of activities which engaged and enthused not only the students, but the staff too – from conversations and quizzes to posters and competitions. Acquiring the grammar and linguistic skills to speak and understand another language is so important as it not only helps develop communication but also fosters a deep cultural understanding which nurtures the values of tolerance, respect and kindness – the very values we as a school promote as part of our ethos – studying a language can only be a good thing.  Mandarin Club takes place on Mondays after school, though not a European Language, the unique opportunity is still there for students to take advantage of. Much like the 6th form who have set up their on TEDx (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference after half term which was launched this week by the TEDxSexey’s team and by Miss Clem Calkin from TEDxYouthBath – curiosity, endeavour and independence all in abundance amongst our 6th formers. Incidentally, our 6th Form Open Evening takes place next Tuesday (4th October) - do please spread the word; all our Y11 students are expected to attend.

Sporting fixtures galore this week where all four rugby teams, U12, U13, U14 and the 1st XV had impressive victories against Warminster School – a tremendous feat by the boys which hopefully sets the tone for the season ahead, The girls had some encouraging performances in hockey this week against strong opposition at Bruton School for Girls and Dauntsey’s and Huish Episcopi and  we look forward to the block fixture against Stonar School tomorrow morning – the first of our Saturday fixtures this term. I hope the values of respect, integrity and sportsmanship will continue both on and off the pitch throughout this weekend amidst the controversy surrounding the beautiful game, football, which has unfortunately become rather ugly.